For the first time in the club’s 40-year history, the Portland Timbers welcome a Norwegian opposition to the Rose City as Stabæk will be joining the Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Fire in the 2015 Simple Invitational at Providence Park (Feb. 22-28, TICKETS). Stabæk joins Sweden’s AIK (2012 and 2013) and Jamaica’s Portmore United (2014) as international teams that have taken part in Portland’s annual preseason tournament.
Coached by former U.S. men’s national team and MLS manager Bob Bradley, Stabæk competes in Norway’s top-flight league, the 16-team Tippeligaen. This is the second season at the helm for the American-born Bradley, who guided the club to a 9th-place finish in 2014 and a semifinal spot in the Norwegian Football Cup.
Despite being founded as a club in 1912, Stabæk‘s first year in the top division of Norwegian football was 1995. Since then, the Blue Ones have stayed at the top level in 18 of the 20 possible seasons. In addition, the club has won both the Norwegian Cup (1998) and the league (2008). Due to its league championship, Stabæk qualified for Champions League Qualifying in the 2009-2010 campaign before bowing out to Denmark’s F.C. Copenhagen.
Stabæk has a number of MLS and Timbers connections. It starts on the touchline with Bradley, who is the only manager ever to win the MLS Cup, U.S. Open Cup and MLS Coach of the Year in a single season (1998 with Chicago Fire). And Bradley isn’t the first Stabæk with a MLS connection. Former RBNY manager Hans Backe managed the Norwegian club for two seasons in the 1990s.
And the connections don’t stop there. Stabæk midfielder Cole Grossman has played for the Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake and scored one of his two career MLS goals at Providence Park—then known as JELD-WEN Field—in 2013. Attacking midfielder Craig Henderson was on the bench for New Zealand when Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson made his senior international debut in 2011. Current MLS players Michael Stephens from the LA Galaxy, as well as NYC FC's Andrew Jacobson, and Mix Diskerud all played for the Blue Ones in the past.
Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey faced Stabaek four times while playing in Norway for Strømsgodset and notched two wins and a shutout. Kwarasey was also on the bench for both matches in Ghana’s 7-3 aggregate victory over the Bob Bradley-coached Egypt in 2014 World Cup Qualifying.
One final connection between Portland and Stabaek, is the involvement in both men’s and women’s soccer. Stabæk was the first Norwegian organization to have teams compete in the top divisions of both the men’s and women’s leagues in Norway, while Portland was the first organization with clubs in both MLS and NWSL.
The Norwegian side will take on the Timbers on Feb. 28 (5pm PT, TICKETS, Webstream at Timbers.com) to cap the Simple Invitational.
Here is a quick look at the other two MLS sides taking part in the tournament:
- The Fire have spent the majority of the preseason training in England and played two friendlies while overseas, drawing 0-0 with Norwich City and notching a 1-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers.
- In 2014, the Fire finished 6-10-18 (36 points), becoming the first team MLS history with more than 16 ties in a single season. The Timbers drew with the Fire, 1-1, in the only 2014 regular season matchup between the two clubs. Gaston Fernandez had the game-tying goal in the 79th minute.
- The offseason brought about a multitude of changes for Chicago, as they have acquired 12 new players this offseason, which is 2nd most for non-expansion teams in the offseason.
- READ: Fire Prep for Portland
- The Canadian side heads to Portland after playing four preseason matches so far with victories over the New England Revolution and the University of Victoria, a draw with the San Jose Earthquakes and a loss to the Houston Dynamo.
- Vancouver is making its 2nd consecutive appearance in the Timbers preseason tournament now known as Simple Invitational. In 2014, the Whitecaps won the tournament with victories over Portmore United and the San Jose Earthquakes and a draw against the host Timbers.
- In 2014, the Caps finished 12-8-14 (50 pts), one point ahead of the Timbers for the 5th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Portland finished 2-1-0 against Vancouver in 2014 regular season with a pair of 3-0 wins.
- READ: 'Caps of to Portland for Simple Invitational
2015 SIMPLE INVITATIONAL SCHEDULE
All Times Pacific; all matches at Providence Park
Sunday, Feb. 22
Chicago Fire vs. Stabæk; 2:30 p.m.
Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC; 5 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 25
Stabæk vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC; 5 p.m.
Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire; 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 28
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Chicago Fire; 2:30 p.m.
Portland Timbers vs. Stabæk; 5 p.m.